A healthy smile starts at the gums, and practicing excellent oral hygiene is the most effective and important action one can take to prevent and treat gum disease. It is common for people to ignore or overlook their gums when evaluating their oral health; much of the focus is often placed on achieving and maintaining a perfectly straight and white smile instead. But without healthy gums one cannot have healthy teeth. Gum disease is often painless and many people have no idea something is wrong with their gums. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss. The good news is there are many actions that can be taken to prevent and even reverse gum disease.
How Can I Best Care for my Gums?
Practicing the following habits regularly is the best way to care for one’s gums and will go a long way towards preventing gum disease:
Proper Brushing & Flossing Technique
Brushing teeth properly is the single most important and effective thing one can do for the health of their teeth and gums.
It is important to:
● Brush your teeth at least twice daily with a soft bristle toothbrush and toothpaste that contains fluoride.
● Toothbrushes should be replaced every 3-4 months or earlier if the bristles have frayed.
● Hold the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the gums.
● Press and gently move the toothbrush in short strokes.
● Reach the inside of the front teeth by turning the brush vertically and making several short strokes along each tooth.
● When flossing, slide the floss up to the gum line and then curve it around the tooth. Move the floss with up and down motions to gently rub the surface of the tooth. Repeat this process on every tooth, especially the back side of the back teeth, which are often forgotten.
Use the Right Toothpaste
There are so many different types of toothpaste in the toothpaste aisle, from whitening products to natural formulas and everything in between. When choosing a toothpaste it is important to make sure it contains fluoride and is approved by the Canadian Dental Association.
Flossing daily is an important part of oral care, though it is often neglected. Flossing removes plaque and food from between the teeth and gums. If the food and plaque aren’t removed regularly, it can lead to the development of tartar (a hard build up of bacteria) that can only be removed by a dentist. If tartar is left on the gums it can lead to gum disease and recession.
There are two types of mouthwash: therapeutic and cosmetic. Both are available over the counter. A therapeutic mouthwash can help prevent gum disease, reduce plaque as well as the speed at which tartar accumulates and remove food particles from the mouth.
Of course the use of mouthwash does not replace the act of brushing and flossing regularly. It is also not recommended for children under the age of 6 to use mouthwash.
Regular Dental Checkups and Cleanings
Routine dental check ups include a thorough cleaning of the teeth and mouth. The only way to remove tartar from the teeth is with a professional cleaning. Your dentist will also remove any plaque that might have been missed during routine brushing and flossing. With regular checkups your dentist can also diagnose the early signs of gum disease and gingivitis. Early identification offers the best chance to prevent further problems from developing.
Smoking weakens the immune system and makes a person more susceptible to gum disease. Quitting smoking is recommended immediately to help decrease the risk of gum disease developing. A person’s risk can also be increased by the use of other tobacco products.
What one eats can also directly impact tooth and gum health. Certain foods can have a positive or negative effect on one’s gum health. Some of the foods that can have a positive effect on oral health and should be incorporated into one’s diet are:
● High fibre fruits and vegetables – these can help keep the mouth clean
● Calcium rich foods help maintain the bone the tooth roots are embedded in
● Green and black teas can help reduce bacteria
● Dairy products can help increase the production of saliva
● Foods that contain fluoride which includes tap water and some poultry and seafood products
● Sugar free gum also helps increase saliva production
Foods to avoid in excess:
Carbonated drinks that contain citric and phosphoric acids as well as sugar
● Alcohol as it can be drying to the mouth
● Hard or sticky candies that can stay in the mouth for extended periods
● Starchy foods that can become stuck in the teeth
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Unhealthy Gums?
It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of potential gum problems. Most gum disease begins with mild symptoms, but left untreated can worsen over time.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. Gingivitis is a condition in which the gums become inflamed. Those with gingivitis may observe swollen, red gums that can bleed easily. They may also experience chronic bad breath.
Most people with gingivitis do not experience any pain and can treat and reverse gingivitis with excellent oral hygiene habits and regular dental care.
Over time, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis. This occurs when plaque and tartar has spread beyond the gumline. The bacteria in the plaque then irritates the gums and triggers an inflammatory response which causes the body to destroy the tissues and bone that support the teeth. As periodontitis progresses the damage can worsen. This can result in deepening spaces between the connective tissues and the teeth. Some people don’t experience symptoms initially but the following can occur as the disease progresses:
● loose teeth
● bleeding gums
● chronic bad breath
● receding gums which can make the teeth look longer
● pus between the teeth or at the gum line
● red, swollen gums
What factors put me at risk for gum disease?
There are several factors that could increase one’s probability of developing gum disease. Some of these, aging for instance, cannot be avoided. The following are the most common risk factors for gum disease:
● Teeth grinding or clenching
● Smoking and tobacco use
● Age (Older adults are more likely to develop gum disease)
● Poor nutrition
● Hormonal changes in girls and women
● The use of certain medications
● Some diseases that affect the inflammatory system such as diabetes
When should I see my dentist?
If you experience pain or bleeding in your gums for more than a week you should see your dentist. Red, puffy gums that bleed easily are a good indication of gum disease and that a dental visit is needed. Some other things to look for are:
● Gums that appear to be pulling back from the teeth
● Pain when chewing
● Teeth that feel loose
● Dentures no longer fit properly
● Tooth sensitivity
Practicing excellent oral hygiene and implementing good habits is the best way to prevent gum disease. If you do experience symptoms of gum disease or want to know more about treatment and prevention, call our Guelph Dentist’s office today!